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The remarkable history

of naval aviation

Heritage

Putting aeroplanes onto ships transformed naval warfare as radically as the gun and the steam engine. Naval vessels could now be protected from the air and targets many miles from the ship could be reached.  The Royal Navy, bastion of comfortable tradition, had suddenly become the pioneer of a revolutionary new approach to warfare, ushering in an era of huge technological innovation and individual courage as the challenge of landing aircraft on ships at sea was confronted.

Operating aircraft in harsh maritime environments also led to an ethos of overcoming problems with practical and often ingenious solutions. The Royal Navy led the way in technological innovation: catapults and arrester wires on ships’ decks, the mirror landing sight, the angled flight deck, the ski-jump and ultimately the Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) Sea Harrier.

Battle Honours

The Royal Naval Air Service fought with great distinction and valour on all fronts during the First World War and its successor, the Fleet Air Arm has been at the forefront of many courageous actions since. 36 Battle Honours have been awarded to Naval Air Squadrons for outstanding actions against the enemy securing victory often against overwhelming odds.

Explore our Battle Honours

Heroes

The history of Naval aviation includes four Victoria Crosses for valour in the air. Two were awarded to the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War and two were posthumously awarded during the Second World War. Numerous other acts of conspicuous bravery and gallantry have been recognised over the past 100 years.

Learn About our Heroes

The Fleet Air Arm’s Battle Honours

Here you will find a list of the Fleet Air Arm’s Battle Honors and links to some of its most famous engagements.

  • Atlantic – 1939-45
  • English Channel – 1939-45
  • North Sea – 1939-45
  • River Plate – 1939
  • Biscay – 1940-45
  • Norway – 1940-45
  • Libya – 1940-42
  • Mediterranean 1940-45
  • Narvik – 1940
  • Dunkirk – 1940
  • Calabria – 1940
  • Spartivento – 1940
  • Taranto 1940
  • Malta Convoys – 1941-42
  • Matapan – 1941
  • Crete – 1941
  • Arctic – 1941-45
  • ‘Bismarck’ 1941
  • East Indies 1940-45
  • Korea 1950-53
  • Malaya – 1942-45
  • Diego Suarez – 1942
  • North Africa – 1942-43
  • Sicily – 1943
  • Salerno – 1943
  • Aegean – 1943-1944
  • Normandy – 1944
  • Sabang – 1944
  • South France – 1944
  • Burma – 1944-45
  • Palembang – 1945
  • Okinawa – 1945
  • Japan – 1945
  • Falkland Islands – 1982
  • Kuwait – 1991
  • Al Faw – 2003

The Battle of the Atlantic

Battle of Taranto

Sinking of the Bismarck

Naval Aviation Heroes

Click on the links below to explore the achievements of some of the most remarkable people in the history of the Fleet Air Arm.

Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown

Richard Bell-Davies VC CB DSO AFC

Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford VC

Lieutenant Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray VC, DSC

Lieutenant Commander Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde VC DSO